Lovie Smith and the Stakes of Sunday

| January 10th, 2011

Mark Potash believes Lovie Smith can not lose this game against the Seattle Seahawks.  Not at home.  Not against an inferior opponent.  And not while operating under his current contract.

Lovie Smith has been among the highest paid coaches in the NFL over the three seasons prior to this one, with nothing to show for it. It’s time for him to hold up his end of the bargain.

While I don’t imagine a loss to the Seahawks on Sunday will cost Lovie Smith his job, the question that could be raised is an interesting one: what does this ballgame mean for Mr. Smith?

Many of us believed, when the season began, a playoff victory for the Bears in 2010 would validate Lovie’s tenure and lead to a surefire contract extension (if not also an extension for GM Jerry Angelo).  But does a win, at home, against the 8-9 Seattle Seahawks really validate anything?  If the Bears knocked the Saints or Eagles out of the playoffs this Sunday one could easily make the argument that 2010 was a resounding success, as its doubtful Vegas would have extended the Bears even the customary three-point home advantage against either of those opponents.  But the Seahawks?  How can Halas Hall draw up a $15 mil contract for holding serve as double-digits favorites at home against a losing club?

A loss would be nothing short of devastating.  Lovie enters Sunday’s game with the better offense, defense and special teams.  The same case could be made for/against Sean Payton (special teams is debatable there) but Payton was on the road and coming off a Super Bowl title.  Lovie is coming off three consecutive non-playoff years and most of the Chicago Bears faithful consider victory on Sunday a guarantee if the Bears merely play well.  Not even solid.  Just…well.

What’s the best outcome for Lovie Sunday?  A dominant, two-touchdown victory that springboards the Bears into the NFC Championship Game.  If that game is in Atlanta, the Bears will be underdogs and Lovie will find himself in a no-lose scenario.  If that game is at home against the Packers, well, I’ll guess I’ll have another column like this for you next Wednesday.